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One of the sure signs of summer is when Blossom Music Center opens and the internationally renowned Cleveland Orchestra takes up residency in our area.

It’s always a major question – just like on New Year’s Eve – about where to be on the special occasion that one is able to go to out in the Cuyahoga Valley. Lawn seats with a blanket and picnic basket, or pavilion seats with a nice supportive back to them? Big decision!

Blossom Music Center. Photo by Roger Mastroianni

Blossom Music Center. Photo by Roger Mastroianni

But you know what, it doesn’t really matter musically because the orchestra’s sound carries throughout the outdoor pavilion and grounds. The professional sound technicians take care to amp up the volume so that the orchestra gets a much-deserved hearing in the farthest reaches.

The Cleveland Orchestra plans to kick off this season on Friday, July 5 with maestro Franz Welser-Most himself taking the baton.

The playbill that evening features Welser-Most leading the group in Richard Strauss’ “Four Last Songs,” with soprano Luba Orgonasova in her Cleveland Orchestra debut performing as soloist.

Luba Orgonaseva.

Luba Orgonaseva.

In a way, they really were Strauss’ last songs, for the composer presumably created them at age 84, a year before he died in 1949. The songs, as a matter of fact, deal with death – particularly in an accepting and peaceful way. It’s been said that the composite work (taken from poetic sources of Joseph von Eichendorff and Hermann Hesse) is quintessentially Strauss-like, for the solo voice soars against and with the support of the full orchestra with the brass (there are solo parts for them) adding additional vocal support.

After intermission, the orchestra will perform Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 8,” a work penned in 1943 and written for a large orchestra, such as Cleveland Orchestra.

There seems to be much academic interest over the symphony’s emotional and political themes – whether it is inherently optimistic or not being one of the debates. Someone said that Shostakovich commented that it was his “poem of suffering.” Maybe we can leave it there.

Under the guidance of Welser-Most, the orchestra will no doubt plumb the richness of the orchestration and let the music waft over the audience gathered to hear it.

The Cleveland Orchestra will perform its opening concert of its summer residency at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 5 at Blossom Music Center, 1145 West Steel Corners Rd., Akron; 216-231-1111; www.clevelandorchestra.com. Tickets are $25-$85, and lawn seats are $20.

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